John Locke and the "Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina"

Dissertation, The Claremont Graduate University (1998)

This dissertation explores the relationship between John Locke and the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina. The secondary literature calls into question Locke's authorship of the document and suggests that the teaching of the Fundamental Constitutions is dissimilar to Locke's political thought. This dissertation challenges that understanding through a textual exegesis of the Fundamental Constitutions and a comparison of the document to Locke's writings on politics and religion. In addition, the document is analyzed within the context of the link between property and political power presented in Plato's Laws, Aristotle's Politics, and James Harrington's Oceana. Despite the fact that the document establishes an oligarchic, and in some ways feudalistic, frame of government, it is argued that the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina and Locke's political thought: are quite similar on several important points: the social compact and the beginning of civil society; the relationship between property and political power; consent and political obligation; the institutional structure of government; and religious toleration. These striking and compelling similarities between the provisions set forth in the Fundamental Constitutions and the teaching of Locke's Second Treatise may lead one to the provisional supposition that the document could very well constitute an attempt to put the theoretical principles of Locke's most famous work on politics into operation.
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